01/01/2012 04:53 GMT | Updated 01/03/2012 05:12 GMT

New Year's Day Parade Ushers In Olympic Year

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to line the streets of the capital to watch the New Year's Day Parade celebrating the start of the Olympic year.

More than 8,000 performers, including US marching bands, cheerleaders and dancers will take part in the annual event.

The three-hour spectacular will celebrate the start of a year which includes the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.

The crowd will also be treated to performances from Strictly Come Dancing contestant Russell Grant and a kite runner from Afghanistan.

Nasser Volant, who fled his native country as a child and now lives near Dijon in France, has been commissioned to make and fly dozens of kites along the route

He is the cousin of Khaled Hosseini, who wrote the novel The Kite Runner which was adapted to become a global film sensation.

His colourful display incorporates more than 20 giant birds of prey and 60 kites carrying the official logo of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The parade, now in its 26th year, has become a tradition in central London.

It will begin at noon at the Ritz Hotel, and take a 2.2-mile route through Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall before ending at Parliament Square in front of Big Ben.